Soccer AM/MW - the home of lively and humorous discussion from the Football and Non Leagues

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Doctor Lakes - Queens Park Rangers

Quick, somebody, call a Doctor! Actually, no need, there's one already here.

His name is Doctor Lakes and, equipped with his medical degree from the University of Hull, he's on hand to deal with any emergencies.

He's also an expert on checking-up on Football League sides and whether they're in rude health or not.

For his latest physical, he ventured to the Smoke to test whether Championship leaders Queens Park Rangers are really as fighting fit as they appear.

Prior to their game against Watford earlier this month, QPR were top of the table - four points clear of Cardiff with a game in hand. They hadn't lost all season and their defence had only conceded nine goals in 19 matches.

They had just beaten their closest rivals in their previous game and few people were prepared to bet against them winning the league.

Fast forward a few weeks and it's suddenly a different picture. Back-to-back defeats at home to Watford and away to Leeds hasn't had much of an impact on their league position - they are still three points clear with a game in hand.

However, it has certainly altered the way the rest of the league looks at the London club.

The game against Watford was shown on TV, and I was looking forward to watching it to see how Rangers were shaping up this season. It was the first time I had a chance to see them play since Neil Warnock took charge.

It's hard to argue with a club who haven't lost all season and are sitting pretty at the league's summit, but I wanted to see whether Warnock had altered his usual approach to playing football.

Now, I'll admit that I'm not the biggest Warnock fan and I will reluctantly admit that he is arguably the best manager in this division. That said, he teams don't always play the most attractive form of football.

It would be unfair to call his Sheffield United team hoof merchants, but they did have a tendency to resort to the long ball more often than not.

I wanted to see whether Warnock had transferred this style of play down south, or whether he was prepared to learn from QPR's past and play the fluid football of old.

Soccer AM/MW provided a live commentary on the game, and to say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I had heard all these plaudits flooding out about Adel Taarabt pulling the strings and QPR being a joy to watch when the Moroccan was on form.

I had gone into the game knowing that their defence was seemingly impenetrable and had not long finished reading an article on Football365 stating that Paddy Kenny was having an incredible season for the Hoops.

Of course, you're all aware that Watford came away from Loftus Road with three goals and three points. Taarabt was anonymous and it reached a point that I wasn't even aware that he had substituted.

He was trying hard to impress, whether that was because he was on TV or not, I don't know. All I do know is that it's easy to understand why a lot of people use the word 'frustrating' to describe him.

On too many occasions, the young Moroccan took the wrong option - opting to keep hold of the ball rather than pass it, choosing to shoot over an easier pass, just doing everything wrong.

I can't remember a moment in the game where I thought that this lad was worthy of a place in the Premier League.

Neil Warnock's QPR have had a slight dip in form after an excellent start

And it wasn't just him who had let me down. Defensively, they looked all over the place. It was shocking stuff for a team who were coasting the league.

The first goal came when the Watford striker was found unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box.

The QPR defence kept allowing their opponents time and space in and around the area. The Hornets could have scored four or five and nobody would have been shocked.

I was amazed that the league leaders were so disappointing, but I'm prepared to acknowledge that it was just one of those days for Rangers. They weren't at the races and just failed to get a foothold in the game.

I realise that this is part and parcel of the beautiful game, but the thing that disappointed me the most was how QPR were playing. They never looked like keeping the ball on the deck and passing it around.

They were always looking toward the top quickly, rather than building from the back. I lost count of the amount of times Paddy Kenny picked the ball up and then hoofed it down field towards his strikers.

Not one of his clearances found a man in a hooped shirt. It was ugly football at times and if a newcomer to football was to have watched that game, they would have thought that Watford were top of the table.

The Hoops then had to travel to Elland Road to face a Leeds team who appear to be getting better with every passing game. Not the type of fixture you want after having your behinds handed to you by a local rival on television. Another game, another defeat.

Having gone 19 games unbeaten, QPR have now lost their last two games, but it would be stupid to suggest they are in free fall. They still have the best manager in the league and one of the best squads, but why have they come unstuck recently?

Are their opponents finally finding out how to beat them or have they become too complacent? Is Taarabt itching for a move away, hence his abject performance against Watford, or was that game a 'miss' match for the hit-and-miss Moroccan?

These are questions that Warnock will be asking himself and his players over the next few weeks.

There's little doubt that QPR will be at the top end of the table come the end of the season, but whether they will occupy one of the top two spots is becoming a little less certain.

Two defeats on the trot is certainly not a disaster, especially when one of those games is away to Leeds, but Rangers fans might be a little worried about how abysmal their side were against Watford.

Having said that, these two defeats might force Warnock into wearing trousers.

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